An offer from a neighborhood architect may just be the solution to the playground problem at St. Christopher’s Montessori School.
The school’s dream project revolves around renovating land next to North Central Expressway to make a “toddler’s retreat.” But it’s not the playground that’s the problem — it’s the proposed wooden fence that would clash with the existing masonry wall along the frontage road.
“The church won’t let us beautify the intersection at Lovers Lane, but we’re letting them build this 8-foot cedar fence?” University Park City Councilman Bob Clark asked during a work session on July 16, when the project last came before the council.
No action was taken that day. But at Tuesday’s council meeting, architect Taylor Armstrong stepped up to the plate.
“I would like to respectfully make a suggestion to both the city and the church that they work together to come up with a holistic solution to the fencing that goes along there,” Armstrong said. “As an architect, I would gladly donate my services pro bono to that end, if you would like to consider that.”
This idea was pleasing to the City Council. After all, “street beautification” has been a priority for the city, the school, and the affiliated St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church for quite some time.
Notice was sent to 11 residents within 200 feet of the school, but there was only one response opposing the plans. No responses came in to support them.
But University Park resident John Chaussee, who sits on the school’s board and the church’s vestry board, said the land in question is often used as a sleeping area for the homeless, many of whom panhandle at the nearby intersection of Lovers and Central. Converting the land to a children’s area with fencing would prevent that use, said Chaussee, who added that $25,000 of private funding has been raised by parents over the last two years.
“Can we pass the resolution allowing the playground but not the wood fencing, until we have an opportunity to work with our architect and the church?” Mayor Dick Davis asked.
City attorney Bob Dillard said any such amendments to the fencing would have to be on the site plan.
So the City Council voted to keep the public hearing open and consider the matter at a later date, when Armstrong, the city’s now-designated architect for the project, and St. Christopher’s have had a chance to work together on a solution.